Some 100 million mostly Hindu devotees are expected to gather in Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival, according to the BBC. Hindu pilgrims flock to the confluence of the river Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati to bathe and wash away their sins and achieve salvation. 10 million pilgrims are said to have bathed in the river on the first day, with the entire event said to last 55 days.
One of the biggest spectacles of the festival is when naked Hindu holy men wearing marigold garlands and ash on their faces run to the river. From the BBC:
“The Kumbh Mela has its origins in Hindu mythology – many believe that when gods and demons fought over a pitcher of nectar, a few drops fell in the cities of Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar – the four places where the Kumbh festival has been held for centuries.”
On observing the festival, Mark Twain is reported to have written in “Following The Equator: A Journey Around The World”:
“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvellous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”
The Kumbh Mela itself takes place every twelve years, but the BBC says this year’s festival is the Maha Kumbh Mela which occurs every 144 years and is determined based on astrological calculations.
The festival is said to cost authorities $210 million but will create $2.2 billion in revenue.
Hindus believe when Gods and demons fought over a pitcher of nectar a few drops fell in four cities, including Allahabad where this Kumbh Mela is taking place.
Water police rescue one of the sadhus (holy men) stuck in the mid flow at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati.
To prepare for the event, authorities have set up 14 temporary hospitals and 243 doctors are on call, according to the BBC.
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